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In my last article, I introduced this series where I'll be providing shorter blurbs to help preview fantasy relevant prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Today, we'll be taking a look at the RB position. Not only is this a strong class at the very top, but it also is incredibly deep. It may not rival the 2017 class in terms of the sheer volume of immediate impact players, but there is plenty of value to be had early on.

I'm sure there will be some turnover at the somewhat arbitrary order that I present them in, but there should be further clarity as we get closer to draft day.

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Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Saquon Barkley is the consensus top RB in the class and a near-lock to be drafted early in the first round of the NFL draft.

Saquon Barkley G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 11 182 1076 5.9 7 20 161 8.1 1
2016 14 272 1496 5.5 18 28 402 14.4 4
2017 13 217 1271 5.9 18 54 632 11.7 3
Career 38 671 3843 5.7 43 102 1195 11.7 8

The takeaway from Barkley's career is primarily defined by his workload in the running and passing game. With two seasons over 200 rushing attempts, Barkley demonstrated a workhorse RB ability and with more than two receptions per game, he's also shown a complete skill set required to be in today's NFL.

The NFL combine could be a day for Barkley to put on a show. If he does, as expected, it could secure a top-five overall selection.  However, he'll need to have shown improvement since high school if he really wants to impress scouts. His 4.63 second forty time from the high school combine, while impressive, won't place him among the fastest RB prospects and could cost him a few spots similar to Dalvin Cook last year.

Barkley is going to be one of the more expensive first round rookie picks in recent years. Barring a Dalvin Cook-like combine performance or something unforeseen, he'll be the 1.01 in all dynasty rookie drafts, a first round start-up league pick, and likely a first round pick in all redraft leagues.

 

Derrius Guice, LSU

Guice isn't the same level of prospect that Leonard Fournette was in 2017, but he's still projected as a fringe first round pick.

Derrius Guice G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 11 51 436 8.5 3 5 20 4 0
2016 12 183 1387 7.6 15 9 106 11.8 1
2017 12 237 1251 5.3 11 18 124 6.9 2
Career 35 471 3074 6.5 29 32 250 7.8 3

Guice regressed during his senior year in the running game, but his increase usage in the passing game provides a positive outlook for his NFL potential.  Guice was responsible for 46 percent of LSU's rushing yards and 45 percent of rushing TDs. At first glance that's not overly impressive, but due to the LSU run-heavy offense he's also responsible for 26 percent of the total offensive yards and 31 percent of total TDs.

Weighing in around 215 lbs, there's no significant concern whether Guice will be able to handle a full NFL workload. As for most RBs, Guice's athletic measureables will be watched closely at the combine. Since the 40 time has been found to be among the most predictive for future NFL success, we have to hope he improves his 4.61 time from high school.

Guice is among the fairly large second tier of RBs in this class. While many are excited about his NFL prospects, he could fall in the draft with a poor combine, simply due the extreme depth in the class. Guice is a first-round rookie pick in dynasty leagues no matter the draft position or situation because of his upside at a highly coveted position.

 

Bryce Love, Stanford

EDIT: Bryce Love announced on January 16th that he would be returning for his senior season.

If you're looking for an incredibly productive RB who will get questioned about whether his size can hold up in the NFL, Bryce Love is your guy.

Bryce Love G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 14 29 225 7.8 2 15 250 16.7 1
2016 12 111 783 7.1 3 8 83 10.4 1
2017 13 263 2118 8.1 19 6 33 5.5 0
Career 39 403 3126 7.8 24 29 366 12.6 2

It's hard to fathom that a scout would question whether Bryce Love was capable of handling a full workload in the NFL after he had over 250 rushing attempts for 2,118 yards, but it's an inevitability considering that he missed one game with an ankle injury. But looking at his rushing efficiency, I'm willing to ignore that. Love failed to exceed one reception per game during his final two seasons which should limit the comparisons to fellow Stanford alumnus, Christian McCaffrey.

Running a 4.47 40-yard dash out of high school, along with his propensity for long plays, there's little reason to be concerned with how Love will test at the combine. The only question is whether he'll be one of the best athletes in the class.

Ideally, I would have liked for Love to have a higher usage in the passing game and more than six career kickoff returns, but his rushing efficiency can't go without notice. A strong draft process likely puts Love in the conversation for a late round pick, but he more likely falls to the second round.

Love's dynasty value will fluctuate based on his draft position. If he lands in a strong situation in the early second round, he could climb as high as fifth or 6th pick, but he's most likely to be selected around pick nine.

 

Ronald Jones, USC

Fans of Jones would have hoped for a better conclusion to his college career. Sub-65 yards rushing on the National stage raised some questions about how his draft stock would be affected. But, despite the poor finish, the former USC RB still stands to be an early-round selection.

Ronald Jones G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 14 153 987 6.5 8 7 39 5.6 1
2016 13 177 1082 6.1 12 11 76 6.9 1
2017 13 261 1550 5.9 19 13 165 12.7 1
Career 40 591 3619 6.1 39 31 280 9 3

After nearly eclipsing 1000 rushing yards during his freshman year, Jones followed it up with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. His 1,550 yards in 2017 represented the eighth-most in college football. At 6-foot, 200 lbs, there shouldn't be any concern whether Jones can remain healthy with a full NFL workload. His 20.08 rush attempts per game was the 18th most in the country and he ranked ninth in rushing dominator.

Ronald Jones Rush Att/G Rush Yds/G Rush TDs/G MS RuYds MS RuTDs
Rushing Dominator
2017 20.08 119.23 1.46 0.60 0.65 0.62

Jones didn't test at the High School combine, but his projected 40 times range from 4.28 to 4.50 sec. If he tests anywhere near the low end of that, Jones's stock will soar. He appears to be one of the most athletic backs in a strong RB class and he'll need to test as such to reach his high end draft ceiling.

Jones's floor for most rookie drafts is probably in the seventh overall in most leagues. If he manages to sneak into the first round of the NFL draft, that floor likely rises to fifth.  Jones projects as a versatile RB at the next level and if he proves to be as athletic as projected, he could be one of the most exciting players in the class.

 

Nick Chubb, Georgia

The next two RBs, who are coincidentally teammates, are likely the two that some readers think I should have mentioned earlier. And that's very possibly true.

Nick Chubb replaced Todd Gurley in 2014 after Gurley went down with a knee injury during his sixth game of the season and produced the following results.

Nick Chubb G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2014 13 219 1547 7.1 14 18 213 11.8 2

After that season, dynasty players began salivating for his potential in the 2017 draft class, but things went a little sour in his subsequent seasons.

Nick Chubb G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 6 92 747 8.1 7 4 32 8 1
2016 13 224 1130 5 8 5 86 17.2 1
2017 15 223 1345 6.0 15 4 30 7.5 0
Career 34 758 4769 6.3 44 31 361 11.6 4

An ugly injury in 2015 opened the door for teammate, Sony Michel to takeover the backfield which limited the workload Chubb would receive for the remainder of his career. Even with a somewhat disappointing 2016, there was still significant expectation that he'd enter the 2017 draft, but with the projections he was given, Chubb returned for his senior season. Despite splitting the workload with the aforementioned Michel and freshman, D'Andre Swift, Chubb still eclipsed 200 rushing attempts with more than six yards per carry. He never returned to the level of his freshman year, but Chubb appears to be one of the more productive RBs in the class.

Chubb's dynasty value will be determined by his draft position. If he's drafted to be the lead back, he could be drafted as early as second overall, but his floor is likely the mid-first if other RBs surpass him with better opportunity. Chubb is considered by some to be the second-best RB in the class. If the NFL agrees, he'll be a factor in rookie drafts and some redrafts leagues.

 

Sony Michel, Georgia

In one game, Sony Michel likely raised his draft stock significantly to those who hadn't gotten around to seeing him yet. But, even if his value should have already been known, his absolute destruction in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma has to be seen as something special.

Sony Michel Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
Rose Bowl 11 181 16.5 3 4 41 10.3 1

Michel was simply outstanding during the semi-final game. On 15 touches, he totaled 242 yards and four touchdowns. Michel followed up with 98 yards on 14 carries against the vaunted Alabama defense to end his career. While he failed to "wow" in a similar fashion to the Oklahoma game, but his playoffs positioned him well for the draft process. And it really shouldn't have been a surprise after his career.

Sony Michel G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2014 8 64 410 6.4 5 7 106 15.1 1
2015 13 218 1136 5.2 8 26 270 10.4 3
2016 12 152 840 5.5 4 22 149 6.8 1
2017 14 156 1227 7.9 16 9 96 10.7 1
Career 47 590 3613 6.1 33 64 621 9.7 6

Michel served as the second RB behind Chubb during the 2014 season, but once he opened the door, it stayed open. Michel's 64 career receptions demonstrate his ability to be used where ever he's needed and his substantial increase in touchdowns erased any concerns you could have about his ability to finish the job.

Michel ran a 4.46 40 at the high school combine. Any improvement to that time would help his draft stock.

You could make a case the Michel is the better RB coming out of Georgia. That alone should tell you Michel's potential. He'll likely be the less expensive Georgia back to acquire in rookie drafts simply due to his likely draft position, making him the most viable sleeper of this running back group.

 

Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

I'm adding Kerryon Johnson to the top six after Bryce Love announced that he would be returning to school in 2018. Johnson was a critical member of the Auburn offense that earned a place in the SEC Championship game.

Kerryon Johnson G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
2015 12 52 208 4 3 14 159 11.4 0
2016 12 182 895 4.9 11 17 125 7.4 0
2017 12 285 1391 4.9 18 24 194 8.1 2
Career 36 519 2494 4.8 32 55 478 8.7 2

Johnson broke out during the 2016 season as a complementary back to Kamryn Pettway, but took over the full job in 2016. His 1391 yards was the 20th most in college football and his 18 rushing touchdowns was tied for ninth. Six yards per carry is the ideal efficiency number that I look for and while he never eclipsed that level, he impressed in other areas. With 55 career receptions, he averaged more than one a game for 36 games and his final season average of two alleviates any concerns that he could be limited in the NFL.

Johnson doesn't have testing numbers to accurately predict his potential athleticism so the combine will be critical for him to improve his draft stock. If he can run in the 4.5 second range, it will shine a positive light on the productive back. Weight might be a minor concern for Johnson, but at 212 pounds, the concerns are minor, at most.

The former four-star RB will likely be a late first round pick in rookie drafts and could be a sneaky late-round pick in redraft leagues.

 

More 2018 Dynasty League Strategy